Tuesday, 21 November 2017


A couple from Chris Rhatigan this week – one a collection of short stories and the other a 120-odd page long novel/novella (what’s the difference?)

Both of these are published by All Due Respect books, as well as two further goodies from Rhatigan – Race to the Bottom and The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

From his website……

I’ve been involved in the crime fiction world as an editor, publisher, and writer for almost a decade.

Chris Rhatigan's website is here

His website is more concerned with his editing services than him blowing his own trumpet about his own work.

I've probably read a couple of his short stories around the internet, but none of his own longer pieces or collections. Time to break my duck I reckon.

Wake Up, Time to Die (2014)

Delusions of grandeur. Furby with an assault rifle. More convenience store robberies than ten seasons of Cops. This is Wake Up, Time to Die. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and always filled with bad coffee and cheap cigarettes, these stories highlight the weird crime side of Chris Rhatigan's repertoire.

 “Rhatigan is an expert at sketching out incidents that feel real, but are steeped in irony and dark humor.”
~Heath Lowrance  - author of The Bastard Hand and City of Heretics

 “Wake Up, Time To Die is noir cut with Novocain; sharp as a junkie’s needle, yet hazy as the morning after. Reality is a fatal disease and this stepped-on high is your cure. Medicate now.”
~Chris Leek - author of Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em

Squeeze (2016)

Scumbag newspaper reporter Lionel Kaspar aimlessly wanders from one scam to the next. Trying to claw his way to anywhere, Kaspar fabricates news stories and blackmails a local bureaucrat. What little success Kaspar stumbles upon he wastes betting on sports and drinking. But when Greg Hulas, his competitor, starts investigating him, Kaspar becomes desperate to maintain his position.

Monday, 20 November 2017


Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls (on the blog yesterday), answers a few questions...

Is the writing full time now? If not, what’s the day job? 

I wish. I trade in the stock market but do so from home (with my own money) now, so no boss to answer to, though it hurts a lot more when I lose. I do write every day, usually into the early hours, which is why I look a bit ill all the time. 

Both your novels Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls have a small town America setting, yet I read you were born in England and spent 10 years as a financial trader in the city. I’m scratching my head here, can you explain why you aren’t setting your books in Watford or Stevenage, for instance?

It’s partly an escapism thing. I sit down at my desk and feel the need to move far from my street and town and life, I like that total separation. And America is just a great setting, with such a sprawling, varied landscape. I think there’s a little more freedom when it comes to police structure and guns etc, it lends itself very well to crime writing.   

What’s easier – a career in the City, or life as an author?

I’ve yet to find anything more difficult than writing a book. I did work very hard in the city, but there was a clear structure to my day, and a clear way of ascertaining whether it was a successful day (I made money or I didn’t). Writing is like beginning a journey and having no idea where you’re going or if you’ll ever get there. Did I make that up? God, I sound like a knob.     

What’s your typical writing schedule?

Write a little, delete a lot. And then ponce around on Twitter. I’ll do this until a deadline looms and then panic and write all night for weeks.  

Do you insert traits of family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I don’t think so. Though perhaps I do it subconsciously. I never set out to copy traits. I do like to tell people I’ve modelled a horrible character on them, it’s endlessly entertaining.    

How long was the debut book, Tall Oaks in conception, before it finally saw publication and hit the shelves?

Around two and a half years from slush pile (talent pool!) to shelves.   

Did the end result resemble the book you envisaged when you set out? Were there many bumps in the road along the way?

The end result was a long, long way from what I started with, though the heart was always there, a story about a small town trying to move on following the abduction of a child. Once my editor got involved the story went through some major changes. It’s a steep learning curve and if you’re precious about your work then you’re in for a rough ride, but I had such total faith in the team at Bonnier.

We lost a character, added a narrative, changed some plot points and massively tightened up the crime element.

Did you have to conduct a lot of research in respect of the settings for your books, or have you got a strong connection with similar places in the States?

No connection, all research, all painstaking. Maps, books, audio transcripts, interviews. There is no shortcut, I have to put in the hours and grind it out. I set my stories wherever I see them best.  

Was your latest book, All the Wicked Girls an easier book to write than your debut?

No, definitely not. It was a horror. It wasn’t just the weight of expectation, it was writing something fairly heavy and dark, in almost a different language, and writing from the perspective of a teenage girl.

Do you have a favourite from the two? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

Ah there’s no way I could choose. Tall Oaks was my first born and led to so many brilliant things happening. ATWG was the difficult second child, waking me in the night and shitting on me, forcing me to neglect everything else in my life so I could focus on it. I love them both in different ways. So, read both. Or read one and I’ll come round and read you the other.  

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpublished, yes. Gems, no.

Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

I am currently writing book 3. It’s about a little girl looking for revenge. Her name is Emily. I’m just starting out so that’s all you’re getting I’m afraid.  

What’s the best thing about writing?

Getting to live in another world for part of the day. When it’s going well, when you’ve a strong sense of place, you know your characters and what’s in store, you sit down and before you know it you’ve written an effortless thousand perfect words, it’s the best job in the world. Working with some of the most creative, talented, lovely people I’ve ever met. Seeing the cover, holding the proof, the first reviews, having a laugh with the bloggers, the launch party.  

The worst?

I am unable to switch off. I’m distant when I’m working through a plot, I’ll be so utterly focused on the story I’m writing that the other facets of my life will take a back seat. I’ve never thought of myself as a selfish person but I become increasingly single-minded as I write.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Perfect Victim – Corrie Jackson

The Confession – Jo Spain
My Little Eye – Steph Broadribb
Dark Pines – Will Dean
The Tall Man – Phoebe Locke

All of them are absolute stunners, I urge you to grab them when they’re out.

Who do you read and enjoy?

G.J. Minett is a friend and also a master of the plot twist. He has a new one coming out soon, Anything For Her, and I just know it’s going to be special. Jo Spain. Dennis Lehane. John Hart. Cormac McCarthy. Sunjeev Sahota, I still think about The Year of the Runaways. I have to break from crime now and again.        

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Harry Potter. I would be a hero to my children.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Lovemaking. Often alone.  

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Sing. It was awesome.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Whitaker household? 

Total TV addict. I’m finally watching The Wire and it’s perfect.

In a couple of years’ time…

Having still not delivered book 3, I will be avoiding my editor.  
Many thanks to Chris for his time and to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for setting this up.

Chris is on Twitter@WhittyAuthor

Sunday, 19 November 2017



For fans of Lisa Jewell, Holly Seddon and Local Girl Missing, All the Wicked Girls is a gripping thriller with a huge heart from an exceptional talent.

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she's a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace - especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

'A very real, very rare talent' Sarah Hilary

'Chris is so amazing. He just has this real knack of creating characters that you're completely engaged with . . . I was hooked by his beautiful prose and by the end I was absolutely ruined' Lisa Hall, author of Between You And Me

Difficult to do this one any sort of justice in a review. After a slightly slow start, once I got into the rhythm of the book I really liked it and was loathe to put it down.

A 15 year-old girl, Summer Ryan goes missing and it isn’t the first disappearance that the small communities in the area have experienced. Several girls have previously vanished and the mythical Bird is responsible. Only he’s not just a made-up bogeyman to frighten the kids, he’s real.

Raine, Summer’s twin and the more wilful of the pair has little faith in Chief Black’s ability to find her sister, so takes to riding the lanes and countryside around Grace with a couple of misfits Noah and Purv to look for her sister.

We experience parts of the book through Summer’s eyes and gradually uncover her secrets and in time discover her fate.

I think I would have enjoyed reading this book, even without the mystery of the disappearance of Summer and the other girls. Whitaker paints an incredibly detailed picture of a small God-fearing bible belt community Grace. The town is in economic decline, work is scarce. There are limited prospects for the youth, criminality could be a legitimate career option.

Within our community we have the usual conflicts and shared histories. The twin’s father, Joe Ryan was sent away, jailed for a number of years and missed a large part of their childhood. Raine blames Chief Black and hates him with a vengeance. Uncle Tommy stepped in and looked out for the pair during Joe’s absence. Chief Black has issues. His authority is under threat. His own faith in his competence is shaky, perhaps the bottle and the magic medicine he injects between his toes isn’t the best way of dealing with things. The manic preacher, Pastor Lumen semi-retired after a stroke still holds great sway in the community. His replacement, the milder meeker younger Pastor Bobby has his own skeletons and burdens to carry. Him and his wife, Savannah are dealing with the loss of their baby son separately, their grief and guilt driving them apart. Savannah is Summer’s cello teacher and Bobby is an important influence in her life.

The two characters who gripped me were Noah and Purv. Almost brothers, one long-suffering at the hands of his abusive father, with bruises and welts Purv’s normality and Noah. Noah has his own burden to carry. His long dead dad was a lawman and died in an incident involving Chief Black, a death which many blame on Black. Orphaned, Noah lives with his ailing grandmother and his dream of following in his father’s footsteps may not be fulfilled. His growing fondness and love for Raine may not be reciprocated and could add to the load he carries. A load borne without self-pity.

It’s been a while since I shed a tear reading a book, but Whitaker pushed me close. The characters were that real and that haunting. Guilt, secrets, love, loss, grief, awakening, maturity, friendship, community, family – all resonate strongly throughout.

5 from 5

Chris Whitaker’s debut novel, Tall Oaks sits on the pile – not for too much longer. 

Read in November, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 448
Source – review copy from publisher Bonnier Zaffre
Format - paperback

Saturday, 18 November 2017



The past never really stays hidden or forgotten. Ben Stingler left his past for a quiet life, until a young man steps in his bar, and brings with him all the things Ben tried to put behind him five years ago. An overdue debt is back on the table.

A short story

A 22 page short story and the opportunity to try out another writer's work for zilch via Instafreebie.

An ok story,  no stop you in your tracks turn of prose, no annoying clunky sentences, decent writing. Reasonable premise, though I kind of wondered about the hiding in plain sight option our man behind the bar took. Not wise in hindsight. Inevitable twist in the tale. I quite enjoyed it and I've read a lot worse in my time.

Enough there to not rule out reading more from the author in the future.

3 from 5

Chris Sarantopoulos has his website here

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 22
Source - free copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Friday, 17 November 2017



A teenager forced into the brutal world of sex trafficking. Dozens of murderous narcos with torture on their minds. The key to survival? A lone badass with a particular set of skills and an urge to kick some major ass…

Introducing the Badass Mexican Girl. 

Tasked with assassinating a pair of narcos who seduced and killed the wrong woman, the Badass Mexican Girl finds herself deep within enemy cartel territory. Armed with only an AS50 sniper rifle, a Glock, and a bad attitude, will this girl with no name be able to take on a swarm of homicidal enemy narcos and rescue an innocent victim of sex trafficking?

You’ll have to read this exciting thriller to find out…

Rest In Peace, Baby is the exciting prequel to the upcoming Badass Mexican Girl thriller series by Vicente Morales. If you like violent page-turners, tons of action from the first line, and an unhealthy dose of dark humor, then you’ll love Rest In Peace, Baby.

Get your copy of Rest In Peace, Baby and dive into the action today!

Another one from Instafreebie and probably the first one to come back and bite me on the bum.

The blurb sounds like it would be right up my street and it was pacey with plenty of action, but no real character development or depth if I'm honest. Consequently I had zero connection to the plot or emotional investment in the outcome.

We have an insanely high body count and fair to say the author delivers on the death and carnage part of the deal. Some of the action scenes seemed a little bit over-described. Every move, punch and kick or bullet described to the nth degree - a little bit more faith in the reader to join the dots up might have worked better.

There's a bit of a curve ball thrown when our Badass Mexican Girl gets a little sidetracked when on her mission to wipe out the Colombian drug supplier. A rescue mission is easily taken in the stride of our protagonist. And there's decent bit of scheming at the end to draw out our adversaries.

Bits of humour Morales injected into the book lightened the tone at points, especially when one of our vicious narco bosses got a rebound from his hot branding iron.

Sadly, overall a bit of a disappointment, but not a totally wasted effort. If you don't try you'll never know.

2.5 from 5

Vicente Morales has his website here.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 91
Source - copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 16 November 2017



Z.Z. DelPresto is a ne'er-do-well private eye who stumbles into trouble along the beaches of Alabama and Florida. But this time he may have waded out too far. The evidence appears to show him killing the seventeen-year-old girl he'd fallen for. But Z.Z. knows good and well he didn't do it, and now he's in the fight of his life to prove it. Throw in the girl's rich and ruthless parents, some cops who have been trying to put DelPresto away for years, a topless tourist and a stuttering psychic who knows all of tomorrow's sports scores today, and you have a story you just can't put down. 

Combine Gischler's colorful eccentricity with Smith's grinding noir, and you end up with this unique novella: To the Devil, My Regards. Originally published in 2001, Gischler and Smith now bring this crazy tale to Kindle, with a new cover by "Pokerben" Springer.

It's been a while since I read anything from either of these two authors after faithfully following them both more than a decade ago. On a bit of a downer after my last book, a quick pick-me-up was in order. Well - at 66 pages it was quick, and enjoyable but not amazing.

Mr Smith
We have a PI in the frame for murdering the daughter of his client. The client hired him to gather evidence on his cheating wife, not to sleep with his daughter and definitely not to kill her!

Z.Z. DelPresto surprisingly gets released from custody and works to clear himself. Managing to avoid the attentions of a hitman, turning the tables on him, having a steamy encounter with the dead girl's mother (who just happened to hire the would-be-assassin), an impromptu boat trip with a couple of unsuspecting tourists, and a few more deaths, DelPresto gathers the evidence and cracks the case. News Flash - he didn't do it!

Action, pace, humour, snappy dialogue, a bit of sex and a few decent twists before a believable resolution, I liked it. Worth a pound of anyone's money.
Mr Gischler

I'm sure they've written a lot better both before and since.

3.5 from 5

Smith's All the Young Warriors was one of my favourite reads of 2013. All the other books I've read from the pair were in my pre-blogging days.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2001 (re-published 2011)
Page count - 66
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday, 15 November 2017



It's Prohibition. It's Philadelphia. And Jersey Leo doesn't fit in. Jersey is an albino of mixed race. Known as "Snowball" on the street, he tends bar at a speakeasy the locals call the Ink Well. There, he's considered a hero for having saved the life of a young boy. But when his old grade school buddy, Aaron Garvey, calls from death row and asks for one last favor, all hell breaks loose. Jersey finds himself running from a band of crooked cops, hiding an escaped convict in the Ink Well, and reuniting with his grammar school crush - the now sultry Myra Banks, who has shed a club foot and become a speakeasy siren. Through it all, Jersey tries to safeguard the Ink Well with no help other than his ragtag group of friends: his ex-boxing-champion father, Ernie Leo; the street-savvy Johalis; a dim-witted dockworker named Homer; and the dubious palm reader Madame Curio. With them, Jersey digs for the truth about his friend Aaron Garvey - and winds up discovering a few things about himself.

My second time with John Florio and his mixed race albino Jersey "Snowball" Leo. Sugar Pop Moon, Florio's fiction debut was a pretty amazing read back in 2013 and this one has sat on the pile for a year or two simmering. High expectations then.

Slightly unfulfilled unfortunately. I didn't enjoy it quite so much as the last one. It's a fairly short book - around 230 pages long, but it still felt kind of saggy around the middle.

Jersey's childhood friend, Aaron Garvey is on death row awaiting execution. Jersey gets the phone call he's been dreading; Garvey wants Leo to join him for his last meal, a request that our man can't turn down. Garvey later escapes and seeks Jersey's help in shelter and also trying to recover some seed money invested in a nightclub. Money he needs to flee the country and start up elsewhere. As a convicted cop-killer he won't find any rest in America.

Therein follows our tale...... corrupt cops - vicious to boot, a speakeasy, nightclubs, gangsters, police raids, harbouring a fugitive, missing money, a playground romance rekindled, racism, shootouts, confrontation and death, prostitutes, a boxing club precious to Jersey and his father Ernie, dreams of a new life, a showdown, more death and an outcome and resolution.

I liked the setting with the seedy atmosphere of illegal drinking clubs in 30s Philadelphia. (World's apart from a recent book I read set in 30s Texas.) I liked the main character Jersey and his relationship with his father and his loyalty to his friends and his dreams of escape with childhood sweetheart Myra. His constant striving to do the right thing and his permanent fretting over money and his responsibilities. He has a good heart. Some of the supporting characters also had some depth and decency - Leo's father Ernie and the cop Thorndyke.

I think I just couldn't really get into the story. There seemed to be a lot of chasing around and to me at least repetition. We seemed to replay the same events a few times. Cops hunt Garvey, Jersey being watched and worrying etc etc. Maybe we needed to get to the point a bit quicker, which might be harsh on a book not especially long to begin with.

I enjoyed the ending and segments of the book. Just a bit of a disappointment when compared to the first in the series.

3 from 5

Thoughts on Sugar Pop Moon here.

John Florio shares his website with his wife, Ouisie Shapiro  here.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from publisher, Seventh Street Books
Format - paperback.